The Turkish-Russian contacts which have started to develop after the dissolution of the USSR have been going on developing at full speed at the beginning of the XXI Century. The fact that these two countries are neighbors, the developments in the international area, the policies of these two countries for their regions, their completing each other in economic terms and the attitude of the West towards them (namely never seeing either as one of them) have provided the rapprochement between Turkey and Russia. Moreover, not only cooperate Turkey and Russia in areas such as economy, energy, tourism, but also they adopt similar attitudes, follow similar policies and consult with each other in relation with the developments and problems in the Black Sea, Caucasus and Middle East. This progress in the relations have brought about that the Turkish authorities talked about the “strategic partnership”. But the Russian authorities, as if they have thought that it is too early to talk about this said strategic partnership, abstain from, for the moment, using this naming. Certain problems such as the rivalry in the Central Asia and Caucasus, the imbalance in the trade volume, the fact that Russia have not added the PPK into the list of terrorist organizations, the problems at the customs point out that it is too early to talk about “strategic partnership” for the Turkish side, too. However, no matter how we name the developed Turkish-Russian contacts, it can be said that the contacts, particularly after the parties signed the agreement of eliminating the visa requirements, the contacts have risen to an irrevocable level. The agenda of this three-day visit of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan shows that the parties are determined to continue to develop the contacts.
The year of 2010 was the 90th year of the Turkish-Russian official diplomatic contacts. For this reason, the number of the bilateral visits in 2010 had been increased and it had been decided to found the High Level Cooperation Council between the parties. The high level bilateral visits have continued during 2011 as well and this council is going to hold its second meeting during the visit of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In spite of the election process in Turkey, a number of ministers including the State Minister Zafer Çağlayan and businessmen are going to accompany the Prime Minister. Besides the bilateral meetings and the meeting of the High Level Cooperation Council, a Business Forum is going to be organized in which the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also participates and the Turkish-Russian firms are going to have bilateral business contacts. In this way, the Turkish businessmen will see directly the business possibilities in Russia.
The high number of businessmen in the Turkish committee shows undoubtedly that the commercial contacts and the trade volume will continue to increase in the coming years, too. In 2010, the trade volume between two countries reached to the level of $40 milliard and Russia has become the biggest commercial partner of Turkey. However the imbalance at the trade volume, although having been brought to the agenda by the Turkish authorities for many years, has not been resolved yet. It is a fact that, as claimed by the Russians, the 2 million Russian tourists coming to Turkey and the 2 thousands Turkish firms functioning in Russia do not resolve this imbalance. Thus, it is highly probable that the Turkish authorities bring forwards this issue again during the said visit.
During this visit, the matter of removing the visa requirements will be one of the subjects, too. The parties had agreed on eliminating the visa requirements in 2010, but this decision have not implemented as the bureaucratic procedure have taken a long time in the both of the countries. It is expected that, as of April 2011, the application of the circulation without the visa requirements will officially start.
Another important feature of the visit is that Mr. Erdoğan is going to visit also Republic of Tatarstan, the autonomous region of the Russian Federation, along with Moscow and St. Petersburg, and has bilateral meetings with the Tatarstan authorities. In this way, this is going to be the first time that a Turkish Prime Minister pays a visit to the Republic of Tatarstan within the frame of an official visit (in 2009, the President Abdullah Gül also paid a visit to Kazan-the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan). Although the Republic of Tatarstan is an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation, the contacts between Turkey and Tatarstan have been developing very fast, in parallel with the ones between Turkey and Russia. While Turkey’s trade volume with so many independent countries is below even $1 milliard, the trade volume with Tatarstan has exceeded $3 milliards. Common history and cultural ties contribute as well to these contacts. The Representation of Tatarstan in Turkey and the Authorized Representative Radik Gimatdinov himself have made great contributions to the development of the Turkey-Tatarstan contacts.
Primary subjects at the agenda of Erdoğan’s visit to Moscow will be the continuation of the cooperation in the area of energy and the participation of Turkey into the South Stream and the participation of Russia into the Samsun-Ceyhan Pipeline Project. The parties are going to talk also about the problems in the international area, especially the developments in the Middle East. As is known, both Turkey and Russia support the idea that all the problems are resolved in peaceful ways, without any external military interventions. In this context, if Turkey and Russia combine their efforts aiming the peaceful resolution of the problems in the Middle East, they may make a great contribution to the establishment of the peace.
As a conclusion, it is expected that the parties discuss a number of subjects and take important decisions during the visit of Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. There is no doubt that these decisions are going to make an important contribution to the Turkish-Russian political and economic contacts. However, it should be stated that the contacts particularly in the cultural and scientific fields have been developing very slowly. There is not a Turkish Cultural Center in Russia and there is not a Russian Cultural Center in Turkey, either. And also the Project of founding a common university determined during the previous visit of the parties has not been progressing. In case of no development in the cultural and scientific fields, the conceptions from the Cold War period will continue and this will become a significant obstacle in front of the Turkish-Russian contacts.
»» Dr. İlyas Kamalov, ORSAM Eurasian Adviser